As of August 1, four cities — Chicago, Seattle, New York and San Francisco — became the first local governments to host their public data sets on the federal domain under the name cities.data.gov. Municipal Information Officers cite their decision to host the data on the federal portal as part of an overall message that open data is bigger than any one city by itself. The collaboration of these four cities — and more to follow — is an acknowledgement that some of the issues facing cities are common problems, and that the solutions and new technologies that come from data in the hands of digital problem-solvers can be shared among all parties.
San Francisco CIO Jon Walton indicated that 90% of his city’s data sets are now hosted on cities.data.gov, and that eventually 100% will find a home on the national portal. The city intends for the new portal to be its main open data repository.
Many excited tweeter responded to the announcement by calling it another victory for innovation and entrepreneurship, encouraging other cities to make their data available for civic hackathons, developers, and programmers. In the same way that usaspending.gov and www.itdashboard.gov have been making transparency strides for the federal government, onlookers hope cities will harness the power of this portal to empower citizens.
At a June 19, 2011 event hosted by the MIT Center for Civic Media and the Knight Foundation in Cambridge, Mass, panelist Chris Vein, deputy federal chief technology officer explained the importance of cities opening up their data:
“Some of the reasons we’re criticized — and sometimes rightly — for giving really horrible public service, customer service is that we just never get the immediate feedback that we need. By opening city data sets on the federal government’s data.gov hub, cities can better provide assets and assistance but also enable entrepreneurs to use the data as an economic engine for the community,” said Vein.
If you are a city who wants to contribute to this open data effort, contact data.gov here.